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The Afterlives

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A love story that asks: what happens after we die? The debut novel from National Book Award 5 Under 35 Winner and author of the “ridiculously good” (New York Times) collection Hall of Small Mammals.

Jim Byrd died. Technically. For a few minutes. The diagnosis: heart attack at age thirty. Revived with no memory of any tunnels, lights, or angels, Jim wonders what—if anything—awaits us on the other side.

Then a ghost shows up. Maybe. Jim and his new wife, Annie, find themselves tangling with holograms, psychics, messages from the beyond, and a machine that connects the living and the dead. As Jim and Annie journey through history and fumble through faith, they confront the specter of loss that looms for anyone who dares to fall in love. Funny, fiercely original, and gracefully moving, The Afterlives will haunt you. In a good way.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published January 9, 2018

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About the author

Thomas Pierce

18 books65 followers
Thomas Pierce is the author of the novel, The Afterlives (Riverhead 2018), and the short story collection, Hall of Small Mammals. A recipient of the 5 Under 35 award from the National Book Foundation, his stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Zoetrope, The Oxford American, and Virginia Quarterly Review and anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014 and The O. Henry Prize Stories 2015 . He has reported for NPR and National Geographic Magazine. Born and raised in South Carolina, he recieved his M.F.A. from the University of Virginia as Poe/Faulkner Fellow and currently lives near Charlottesville, VA with his wife and daughters.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 284 reviews
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,688 reviews2,241 followers
March 26, 2018
“ Buddha and Moses and all the noses
From narrow to flat
Had to stand in the line
Just to glimpse the divine
What’cha think about that?
Well, it seems like our fate
To suffer and wait for the knowledge we seek
It’s all His design
No one cuts in the line
No one here likes a sneak

You got to fill out a form first
And then you wait in the line
You got to fill out a form first
And then you wait in the line

-- The Afterlife, Paul Simon, Songwriter: Paul Simon

”Exit heartbeat.
Exit breath.
Exit every mood, every memory.
Exit you.
To where?”

”First, their voices – the nurse’s, the doctor’s, my parents’.”

Pulled from death’s grasp, Jim Byrd hears the doctor asking for his full name and if he knew, pointing to the television on the wall, what it was for. Momentarily wondering why the doctor doesn’t know these things, a young nurse explains that he’d been discovered at the bottom of the stairs in his building by a man who then proceeded to give him CPR until the paramedics arrived.

”’If not for him,’ she said, ‘you’d probably still be dead.’”

”A misfire, my cardiologist called it.
‘But was I really dead?’

“Dying, he clarified, was a process, not a single event. It was like a wave pulling back from the shore.”

”You died, and then you died a little more, and then just a little bit more until you were all the way completely dead – or not, depending.”

Jim Byrd died, was brought back to life, and his heart was now connected to a device that regulated and monitored his heart – HeartNet – an implanted defibrillator, which he can track with his phone, and that will send him alerts when your heart fails to beat on its own.

This is the story of Jim Byrd, his life and those in his life, his parents, his wife, and a house with a history. A fire. A death. An interest in connecting with the departed, a woman named Sally Zinker, a professor at UNC, a physicist who is focused on connecting with those who are no longer among the living. There is a love story or two, the “investigation” into traveling to visit those in the ‘Afterlife,’ but that is almost just a device to connect us to the idea of life after life. The connection of the here and now to the always present, forever view of mankind and the heavens, but not in a religious sense, or even so much a “ghostly” presence. More in the eternal nature of things, but in an almost playful sense: life after life.

I don’t know what I expected from this, except I was skeptically hopeful. I’d wanted to read this since I own a copy of it, a gift, and I felt somewhat obligated to read it. It was a bit of a surprise, although I can’t say that I gushingly loved this, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it overall.

Jim Byrd had experienced death. Had, in a sense, been plagued by the idea that he didn’t recall experiencing any angels, harps, gates…any… anything. As he grows older, as the world changes, as technology takes larger leaps into our lives he is haunted by the thought: What if this is all there is? Why didn’t he see anything? Or, perhaps… does he just not remember what he saw? When his father dies, he keeps waiting for some sign, some way to find out more. To talk with his father once more, to know what is …there.

There’s a bit of everything in this, at least that’s how it felt at times, love stories and mysteries with everyday life as well. Occasionally there’s a lovely, if fleeting, glimpse at some of these everyday moments, which I enjoyed.

”His suitcase, on the bed, needs packing. It can wait. Everything can wait. The curtain, flitting in the breeze, continues its flirtation with the end of his cigarette.”

”I wanted to appreciate every aspect of this moment, to preserve it, to live in it forever. Annie’s light wheezing breath, the dance of the curtain across the AC vent in the floor, the clock’s red flashing colon that held the hours from collapsing into minutes.”

Many thanks, once again, to the Public Library system, and the many Librarians that manage, organize and keep it running, for the loan of this book!

Profile Image for Ken.
Author 3 books884 followers
October 20, 2021
Part ghost story, part love story, part philosophical/scientific time-travel mishmash, Thomas Pierce's The Afterlives has a little something for everyone. If you like reading plot books that highlight relationships, or wonder a lot about theories of death and existence and "daisy holes" (as they're called here) separating present from past from future, eureka! You've found your book!

For me, a fun pleasure read, which I don't often treat myself to. I like my books a bit chewier, as a rule, but sometimes your jaw gets sore and you need a smoothie (hopefully made with power greens). I think it was a bit fat at 363 pp., but I'm always in favor of scissors (except when it comes to my own writing, ha ha).

And Pierce did give us some quiet, descriptive moments, such as this:

"She slept peacefully, her warm rump turned toward me, the blanket halfway up her leg, a burn mark on the sheet from the dryer. Everything felt significant, fleeting.

“I wanted to appreciate every aspect of this moment, to preserve it, to live in it forever. Annie’s light wheezing breath, the dance of the curtain across the AC vent on the floor, the clock’s red flashing colon that held the hours from collapsing into the minutes. I was in agony. I was crying. Sobbing, actually, face pressed to the pillow, the heat of my face rebounding off the fabric."

See? Pierce seems to be saying. I can do description, too. But mostly it was storyline and train stops for plots and subplots. Get on, get off. Flip pages. What happens next? Who dies? Does anyone die? And how do we communicate with the dead? And do we want to communicate with the dead?

Here, it seems, the answer is yes, every time. Yes, yes, yes. Life after life after life. You're going to need your Dramamine, in other words. The cover should serve as a hint.
Profile Image for Blair.
1,731 reviews4,082 followers
January 28, 2018
This is a peculiar book, and I liked it but I'm not quite sure what to make of it. From the start I found the narrator offputting, but whenever I thought I might as well give up, something hooked me and pulled me back in – a story about a ghost on a staircase that's titled 'The Tale of the Dog on Fire'; an organisation called 'the Church of Search' which has holograms giving inspirational talks; historical chapters that move back and forth through a character's life as though time is not linear but a picture book to be flipped through.

The Afterlives is set in the not-too-distant future, hence the holograms and the app Jim Byrd uses to monitor his heart after a brief 'death' from cardiac arrest. In the aftermath of this incident, Jim reconnects with his high school girlfriend, starts attending church and develops a preoccupation with a local ghost story. A restaurant in Jim's hometown – specifically, a particular spot on its staircase – is home to a number of unexplained phenomena, which he learns about when he visits in his capacity as a loan assessor. (An anomaly in the restaurant's accounts turns out to be the owner trying to exorcise the ghost, or ghosts.)

The occasional historical chapters tell the story of the building's former residents/possible phantoms, Clara and Robert Lennox, and their families. Surprisingly, these are among the best parts of the book. Pierce uses a brilliantly effective structure here, moving swiftly and non-chronologically through the characters' histories but making us aware, via the subjects' apparent awareness of their timeline-jumping, that these are perhaps more than memories (a nod to the book's title). He also teases out unexpected connections between the historical and contemporary characters in so subtle a style that I didn't see them coming – yet they made perfect sense.

Unfortunately, there's this whole dull plot strand about Jim's relationship. This is a personal quibble I have with lots of fiction, but in this case it's exacerbated by the characterisation. Annie, Jim's girlfriend (later wife), is given about as much personality as a blank sheet of paper. We know Jim is attracted to/has feelings for her, she's a widow, and she has a daughter – who is for some reason named 'Fisher' – and that's about it. We are told facts about her, but rarely, if ever, do they seem to fit together and constitute a believable person. (Jim, meanwhile, isn't especially likeable, but he's fleshed out enough that I did feel emotionally invested in what happened to him by the time it... happened.)

This is a novel of the fantastic – from ghostly presences to futuristic tech – yet it's grounded in the banal, creating an oddly folksy strain of science fiction. Critics' reviews of The Afterlives tend to make it sound like it has a solid plot, suggesting Jim goes on some kind of quest for hope or meaning, but when you're reading it, it feels more like a meandering meditation on mortality (alliteration unintentional, but quite fitting).

I received an advance review copy of The Afterlives from the publisher through Edelweiss.

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Profile Image for Jessica Sullivan.
518 reviews418 followers
January 26, 2018
Following a near-death experience during which he technically died for several minutes, 33-year-old Jim Byrd becomes hyper-aware of his own mortality. Death seems to be everywhere. There's a ghost haunting a restaurant owned by one of his clients. He even lives in a retirement town where "old people come to die."

Consumed by his uncertainty about what happens in the afterlife (and convinced from his own experience that the answer is nothing) Jim and his wife Annie search for proof. They learn about an elusive physicist named Sally Zinker who believes that human beings only 93% exist in this world and has supposedly created a machine that allows the living to connect with the dead. But will they find the answers they so desperately want, or merely end up more uncertain than ever?

The Afterlives is a smart, funny and imaginative work of speculative fiction written for those of us who battle the existential dread of knowing that one day we and everyone we love will die—those of us who don't have the comfort of a firm belief in any sort of afterlife.

The technology and science-fiction aspects of this book are intriguing and thoughtful, and the parts about marriage and love are insightful and relatable. Pierce took on an ambitious topic and handled it with deftness and heart. If you're the type of person who likes to think about the big questions in life, I think you'll find this a satisfying read.
Profile Image for Art.
190 reviews8 followers
October 4, 2017
I work in an independent book shop and we have countless ARCs at our disposal. I'm always looking for an interesting read by an author I have never heard of. I found a little gem in this one. This is a quiet, but very engaging, story with likable and believable characters. There is also a ghost story within the story that stands on its own. After a near death experience, the main character becomes obsessed with the afterlife and what it may hold for all of us. It's a very thought provoking book. I'll keep Thomas Pierce on my radar.
Profile Image for Ron Charles.
1,017 reviews48.3k followers
January 25, 2018
Thomas Pierce approaches the interplay of technology and immortality with considerable subtlety in his debut novel, "The Afterlives." The story opens as 33-year-old Jim Byrd is revived from sudden cardiac arrest. He is happy to be back but dismayed that during the minutes he was technically dead he “saw nothing. No light, no tunnels, no angels.” That would seem to snuff out prospects for the great beyond. Yet Jim, a loan officer, ends up approving the mortgage for an old building that may be haunted. Pierce, one of the National Book Foundation’s recent 5 Under 35 Award winners, wanders wherever the spirit moves him, which may frustrate readers looking for drama, but I was enchanted by his thoughtful ruminations and wry comments about church and spirituality. Intercalary chapters about the haunted house’s original residents vibrate with ectoplastic energy. Pierce is particularly unsettling when he describes. . . .

To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:
Profile Image for Elaine.
1,487 reviews1 follower
September 11, 2018
The Afterlives has a quirky, off-beat premise that caught my attention when I read the synopsis. Unfortunately, the premise was the most interesting thing about it.

** Spoilers ahead **

After a near death experience, thirty-three year old Jim Byrd embarks on a quest to find the meaning of life.

Is there an afterlife? Do we live on after death? Does it matter?

These deep, existential questions fall flat when we meet Jim Byrd, a boring, dull, bland white male who lacks wit, talent or any discernible quality that makes him interesting.

He pretty much coasts through life working a meaningless job and meets an old girlfriend at a restaurant. Eventually, they marry.

Interspersed with Jim's recounts of his daily routine are vignettes of a couple from over fifty years ago that experienced a traumatic event in a home that was later converted into the restaurant Jim will later visit in the future as part of his duties as a loan officer at a bank.

This couple's unhappy marriage has permeated the core and structure of this building and infused it with a supernatural quality that continues to affect residents or anyone who comes in contact with this building.

When I picked The Afterlives up from the library, I noticed it was categorized as romance but that doesn't feel right.

Just because Jim pontificates about his wife and marriage and their quest on searching for the existence of an afterlife does not make this a love story.

In my opinion, this story is more about the subject of love; the love that comes from the connections we make with our family, our friends, our colleagues, people we respect and admire, not the romanticized and/or sexual love we feel for a partner.

The problem with this book is that it meanders. I'm not sure what its trying to say. The writing is good but wasted here on various story threads that lack cohesiveness.

If the author had focused on the supernatural quality of the building and what it may mean for the existence of an afterlife, the story would have been more grounded.

Instead, we get side stories about this unhappy couple alongside Jim's unimaginative outlook on life despite his near death experience. As their marriage progresses, science and technology develop at a rapid pace, so much so that it is difficult to differentiate between reality and surreality.

When Jim and his wife meet a female scientist who has devoted her life and career to proving the existence of an afterlife, they are both confronted with personal issues from the past; Jim and the loss of his father, his wife's loss of her first husband, and what it means to go on after we lose the ones we love and care about.

This book had such a fascinating idea but it was bogged down with a weak main character and too many tangents about minor characters I did not care for nor could I understand why we were given these small histories about them in the first place.

Seeking answers to the meaning of life and why we are here in this world is a fundamental part of living, of growing, of evolving and of the way we process our own mortality.

But as I read on, it felt like the author was unsure of where to go with his story.

Is it about ghosts?

Is it about marriage? Family? Death?

Or is it about none of this?

People die, we die and life goes on?

The lack of a strong narrative focus created confusion on how I should approach the book as I read it.

I was hoping this book was about ghosts and the supernatural but it ended up as a boring recap of characters I neither liked nor identified with interspersed with brief reflections about life, living and marriage.

I really enjoyed Mr. Pierce's writing.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for how I felt after reading The Afterlives.
Profile Image for Tyler Goodson.
171 reviews121 followers
October 9, 2017
Jim's new life begins when he almost dies, a life in which he finds love, hears a ghost, meets a psychic, and tries to find out what happens after we die. His journey leads him through life, death, and in between, but for Jim, the questions keep coming. What does it mean to lose? Or to move on after loss? Pierce has written a brilliantly imaginative and beautiful novel about the big, impossible questions, fear of the unknown, and the people who keep us from spiraling into the darkness.
Profile Image for Melissa Rochelle.
1,237 reviews142 followers
September 29, 2017
This novel defies description. It's a ghost story. It's futuristic. It's a love story. It's science fiction. It’s a mix of all of that and somehow comes together into a cohesive story that I really enjoyed.
Profile Image for Jaclyn.
Author 49 books549 followers
February 16, 2018
Pierce is not afraid to confront the big questions about life, death and the thereafter in THE AFTERLIVES. His exploration of mortality and technology was particularly interesting (holograms are terrifying). How do we live when we know we will die, everyone we love will die, everyone who loves us will die? How? It’s unbearable and yet we face it each and every day. This book is definitely for those of us who spend a lot of time thinking these thoughts. I loved it.
Profile Image for Mary.
806 reviews15 followers
August 24, 2020
Thomas Pierce has a new fan. I really enjoyed his novel The Afterlives. Jim Byrd has a heart condition that leads to him dying for several minutes and then being revived.

The book centers around his search for answers to the question is their an afterlife. Wonderful characters and engaging writing.
Profile Image for Abby.
1,396 reviews178 followers
October 10, 2017
Thomas Pierce brings all the components of a good story to the table: humor, empathy, and ingenuity. I lapped up this creative and touching novel, flying through it as I was flying home over the Pacific Ocean. Jim and Annie build a life together and wander through a future that does not feel too far away from us now. I'll be thinking about them and the elements of their story for days and weeks to come. The future of American fiction, honestly, feels brighter to me, knowing that it is buoyed by writers like Thomas Pierce.
Profile Image for Dax.
226 reviews98 followers
September 9, 2018
I fell victim to strong marketing. The main character is dull, the story is boring, and the dialogue is adjective heavy. Reads like a YA novel. Case in point in why I plan to be much more leery about new releases moving forward.
Profile Image for Kerry.
776 reviews87 followers
December 9, 2020
A really wonderful read that I stumbled on and decided to read due to its front flap summary. This is a story about Jim, who due to a heart arrhythmia has a near death experience that he finds largely disappointing and disturbing as there are no bright lights, long tunnels or angelic escorts as he expected from "near death" accounts in the media. He then hears of a "haunting" at a local restaurant and feels contact with this ghost may serve as a conduit between this world and the next. From there the reader is taken on Jim's journey thru alternative religion (The Church of Search) to physics and ghost particles and a physicist with a "Reunion machine". Along the way Jim's life goes through many changes--I don't want to give away too much but these new circumstances just help to propel him on his quest to find out and perhaps experience connecting with the dead.

In all it was a most enjoyable read, with some elements of speculative fiction and a wonderful story of one man's search for meaning. It is a dual timeline story, the second story giving the history of the restaurant haunting ghost. I did not find the ghost's story added much. Mostly I raced through it in order to get back to Jim who I found complex and often laugh out loud funny.
A great read and wonderful surprising journey. I gobbled it up and wished there were more.
January 7, 2018
I finished this the other day and I have mixed feelings about it. The premise was good. I was super interested in this book the first 3 parts of the book and then I found myself falling asleep while reading. Not highlighting or tabbing anymore. I became a bit bored in the last 2 parts.

This story follows a man named Jim who dies for a bit after having a heart attack. Once surviving he was mad because he didn’t see like a light or angels while he was out. He has to have like a “pacemaker” type thing that tracks his heart beat called HeartNet and he also uses a app.

Throughout the story Jim and his wife Annie tries to understand the mystery of this ghost story. A old house turned restaurant has a stairwell where weird things were happening to people. And they believed the house/restaurant was haunted.

I enjoyed the writing of this book & there was a bit of humor throughout but the talk about Afterlives and angel,God and all that sort of dragged on for a bit in some parts (even though I know that’s the point of the book) the mc is questioning all that and what happens once we die.

This is my first read by this author. I found this book in a thrift store for $1. I didn’t know it was a arc until I got home so that’s cool.

This book comes out on January 9th so thank you to the person who donated the book to the thrift store because i was able to read this early 😂
Profile Image for Joves.
242 reviews14 followers
January 25, 2018
I really wanted to like this book. I read the synopsis and was so excited when I finally got my hands on it! However, this book ended up putting me to sleep. I couldn't get into it at all. I enjoyed the main character's thoughts but unfortunately none of it was memorable. It also doesn't help that the book is divided five parts with no chapters within each section to help you digest the story easier.

Profile Image for Jonathan.
746 reviews14 followers
January 16, 2018
I wish this book had been a little less Straight White Dude in its perspective. The writing is great, especially in how genuinely it earns its emotional payoffs, but at the end of the day what I couldn't shake off was the disappointment in how obvious and boring the narrator's problems were.

He's another white dude concerned with mortality but only in a philosophical sense, which speaks to his relative safety and comfort living in the world. I'm not calling for the book to be written from a marginalized perspective, to be a blistering account of sexism or racism, because I know not every book can tackle every problem in the world, but I don't think it's too much to ask for a little more consideration re: intersectionality in fiction.

For me, the text lacked a propulsive energy because the issues at hand felt so mundane, though it does certainly ratchet up the intrigue in the last fourth. I wish that drive had been consistent.

I was offered an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review through Edelweiss.

8 reviews1 follower
February 22, 2019
✓Engaging writing
✓Time Travel
✓High Mystery
✓Two time periods
✓Ghosts, maybe
✓Ghost of a dog??
✓Non-fake psychic
✓Time machine like thingy (which works too)
✓Life, afterlife questions
✓For readers who love anything paranormal, spiritual, psychic, vibrations, alternate dimensions, etc.

I guess that covers it all!

Now, what I didn't like at all:

--Protagonist; he's so off-putting to the point I don't give a crap if he dies a horrific, gruesome death, trapped in another dimension.

--His wife is not a deal breaking character either. She feels more like a caricature

--Thier sex is even more off-putting

--It tries to cover too many elements and can't do justice to all

But mostly it's the protagonist and his bad sex doing. You can't make me care any more for a book when I don't like the characters. Only R.R.Martin is an exception!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Uriel Perez.
108 reviews33 followers
September 12, 2017
A tender and often comical telling of one man's quest to discover the existence and depths of the afterlife — a journey that takes Jim Byrd to New Age churches, into an investigation of a haunted staircase, and in pursuit of a physicist who may or may not have constructed a machine with the ability to bring us in contact with the deceased. Thomas Pierce's first novel is layered with heart, humor and tremendous revelations concerning our technology-ridden lives.
Profile Image for Cletus Van.
45 reviews
February 5, 2018
This booked echoed many thoughts I've had in my life. I absolutely loved The Afterlives, I didn't want the story to end. It was poetic, insightful, funny, generous, and a little futuristic. Full of faith and doubt and complex characters. It left me reminiscing about vignettes in my life for days on end.
Profile Image for Kerry.
776 reviews87 followers
October 22, 2021
October is a month where many like spooky reads. I too love a ghost story and have been writing one myself for the last 25 years (my husband says I'm going to need a Medium myself so someone will finish it after I'm dead) but that is a whole different story. This is a wonderful book I picked up the first time as it had a similar trop to the one I've been endeavoring to complete. I liked it a lot and recommended it to my book club and thus read it again. It may become an annual October read for me. A ghost story that is a less than spooky but just a very enjoyable read.

It is told from mostly a first person point of view. Jim Byrd experiences a near death experience that he finds particularly lackluster. No bright lights or flash back memories, really nothing at all. Then a ghostly experience sends him searching further for any evidence of life after death. This book is fiction, part speculative with futuristic looks at Holograms, Reunion machines that take one out of present reality to experience being with lost love ones and explores in many ways what lies beyond. Certainly a great read for October and one I would recommend highly. Not quite 5 star but a solid 4+ that I am sure I will return to again.
Profile Image for Sarah Tittle.
177 reviews6 followers
February 20, 2018
3.5 stars. I like what Pierce is doing here--exploring how technology has changed the way we think about death, or at least the way we think about what happens after we die. I like the fact that the main character is an average-Joe-type person, and I like the setting (maybe only because that part of the world is familiar to me). But after a big warm up, I grew increasingly disappointed with this story. Maybe it's the hologram twist and the way it lends a vague sci-fi tone that really turned me off. Every time the "grammers" show up I'm sort of, ewww, just stop. But points to Pierce for making this futuristic aspect of the novel feel pretty commonplace.

I have to say, I'm a little obsessed with what happens to us after we die. I don't understand why we don't know the answer to this, and I feel like we should. But the fact that this one important question is still completely unanswered, after all the technological/scientific advances we have made, is sort of the answer itself. We don't know because we either can't comprehend it, or there's just nothing, or it's so horrible no one wants to tell us. Or maybe it's wonderful and no one wants to tell us because then we'd all just kill ourselves. At any rate, my own philosophical musings aside, I appreciate an author trying to tackle this subject. But this novel just didn't land for me. At times it lagged, at other times I felt that the characters were a little too bland. And the ending felt a bit like a cop-out.
Profile Image for Katherine Moore.
167 reviews44 followers
January 6, 2018
This book almost defies description and I'm still basically 'speechless' upon finishing. Yes, I can say it's a fictional novel (unless author Pierce knows things we don't!), but then I can tell you all the different genres and subjects it touches: fantasy, the supernatural/ghosts, sci-fi and aliens, relationships, religion and the question of God, conspiracy theories, and the biggest question of all - what happens to us all when we die.
The novel begins when Jim Byrd dies for a few minutes, but he is left with no experience of seeing an 'afterlife', ie, no 'tunnels with lights'. This leaves him with huge life questions and starts seeing the world in a whole new way, along with his new 'HeartNet' to keep his ticker beating safely. The world in which this novel is set in, is even filled with holograms, and so many questions for Jim, and consequently for the reader. I didn't read this as quickly as some books because of that, and I was often putting it down to digest and think about what I'd just read because of everything I just had to absorb. There's actually a lot of humor in the novel too, so even though there are huge topics on the table like life and death, the tone of the book remains light, even when big events happen.
Originally I was put off by the fact that Jim's romance and subsequent relationship with his wife Annie, would be central to the novel, but it ended up being such an original journey that they were on, that I was absorbed by their story within the bigger story.
This is such a unique and intelligent novel, one that will get your brain thinking and your heart thumping. I know I won't read another quite like this in 2018, and it's got to be read to be fully appreciated. Fabulous.
Profile Image for Cary Fitzgerald.
56 reviews20 followers
August 16, 2019
I enjoyed it very much. The kind of poignant story which you are still thinking about several days later. Ghost story plus philosophical exercise plus love story. Seems like some reviewers don't like the fact that the story doesn't have a nicely wrapped, tight ending. I think that was kind of the author's point. And I thought the idea made the story work very well. Definitely recommend.
Profile Image for Lori.
653 reviews68 followers
June 4, 2018
I was pretty convinced this was a 3 book, which for me still means quite good, but the last 1/4 really upped it and I’m left feeling adrift. I want to reread the ending, and I want to discuss with someone, wah!
Profile Image for Tina (KIMONO Books).
256 reviews23 followers
February 15, 2019
Wow. Mir fehlen die Worte!

Worum geht’s überhaupt?
Anhand der kurzen Leseprobe von Thomas Pierce‘ Romandebüt „Die Leben danach“ konnte ich mir nur schwer ausmalen, wie sich dieses Buch entwickeln würde – ist es ein Roman über einen Mann, der sein Leben völlig umkrempelt, eine Liebesgeschichte oder etwas völlig anderes? Wie sich herausgestellt hat, trifft der letzte Punkt den Nagel auf den Kopf. Es beginnt damit, dass unser Protagonist Jim, ein ziemlich durchschnittlicher Typ, einen Herzstillstand hat und für eine Minute oder zwei tot ist. Dadurch, dass er in diesen wenigen Momenten keinerlei Nahtoderfahrung, gleißendes Licht oder ähnliches gesehen hat, ist er nachhaltig verstört. Zum Schutz vor weiteren Herzproblemen wird ihm ein technologisch sehr fortgeschrittenes „Sicherheitsnetz“ um sein Herz herum implantiert, das sein Herz auch dann weiterschlagen lassen würde, wenn er bereits tot ist. Dass er das Gerät und seinen eigenen Herzschlag über sein Handy in Echtzeit verfolgen kann, macht die Möglichkeit des Todes zu seinem ständigen Begleiter. Fortan sieht er das Leben mit neuen Augen und ist sich permanent seiner eigenen Sterblichkeit bewusst. Jim beschäftigt sich obsessiv mit den Nahtoderfahrungen anderer Menschen, er liest alles, was er zum Thema findet; er grübelt sehr viel über den Tod, besonders über das, was danach kommt, und kämpft mit Panikattacken, da er Angst vor dem großen schwarzen Nichts hat.

"Ich würde sterben. Jeden Moment würde ich sterben. […] Ich würde weg sein. Wie mein Vater, wie alle anderen. Was auch immer es war, ich würde nicht einmal wissen, dass es passiert war. Ich würde mein Leben nicht vermissen. Alles, was ich je gewesen war, würde einfach verschwinden. […] Denn es gab keine andere Seite, oder? Das hier war die einzige Seite, nicht wahr?"

Dann kommt er zufällig mit einem kuriosen Fall von Spuk in Berührung: In einem Restaurant wurde auf einer Wendeltreppe eine Stimme aufgezeichnet, die eindeutig nicht von dieser (lebendigen) Welt stammt. Sie ruft: „Der Hund brennt!“ Auf dieser Wendeltreppe soll allerdings nicht nur diese Stimme zu hören sein, die Restaurantbesitzerin berichtet auch von geisterhaften Erscheinungen und dem Gefühl von dem Druck von Händen, die Menschen von der Treppe zu stoßen scheinen. Jim ist zugleich fasziniert wie verstört. Noch während er darüber brütet, welche logische Erklärung es für diesen vermeintlichen Spuk geben kann, trifft er seine Ex-Freundin aus Schulzeiten wieder und verliebt sich glatt erneut. Nun jongliert Jim zwischen seiner Angst vor dem Tod, einer frisch entflammten Liebe und dem Rätsel der Wendeltreppe. Sein Leben beginnt, sich drastisch zu verändern. Der Spuk sowie die vorherigen Bewohner des Restaurants, die vermutlich Ursprung dieser Geistererscheinungen sind, beschäftigen Jim viele Jahre lang. Er erforscht die Familiengeschichte, beschäftigt sich mit paranormalen Forschungen und esoterischen Riten, mit denen man mit den Toten kommunizieren können soll. Dabei stößt er auf die Physikerin Sally Zinker, deren Forschung sein Leben komplett auf den Kopf stellen wird. Was Jim eigentlich nur als übersinnlichen, mystischen Mumpitz abtut, nimmt reale Formen an und gewinnt durch die Forschung der Physikerin enorm an Glaubwürdigkeit.

Sally Zinkers Forschung beschäftigt sich mit Geistererscheinungen und den sogenannten Daisy-Teilchen, die die „andere Seite“, die Totenwelt in einer bestimmten Situation durchlässig erscheinen lassen. Auf diese Weise kann innerhalb eines kurzen Zeitraums sozusagen Kontakt mit den Verstorbenen aufgenommen werden. Damit man diesen Kontakt allerdings steuern kann, um gezielt mit geliebten Menschen zu kommunizieren, muss man für den Bruchteil einer Sekunde aufhören zu existieren. Das klingt verrückt? Ja, etwas, aber Thomas Pierce schafft es, Gedankengänge, die wir alle wohl an dem einen oder anderen Punkt unseres Lebens einmal tätigen, mit physikalischen Prinzipien und Forschungen zu verknüpfen und sogar noch eine Liebesgeschichte, die nicht kitschig ist (juhu!) einzubauen. Ein echtes Allround-Paket also, das nicht nur die Grenzen des Klappentextes sprengt, sondern auch alle Erwartungen. Lange habe ich keinen so guten Roman mehr verschlungen. „Die Leben danach“ erinnert mit seiner zugleich wissenschaftlichen als auch philosophischen Note stark an die Werke von Scarlett Thomas, die in ihren Roman verschiedenste Themengebiete spannend verwebt.

"Sie suchte nicht unbedingt nach Gott. Sie suchte nach einem Anzeichen dafür, dass das Leben über den physischen Körper hinausging, dass das Bewusstsein auf irgendeine Art den Tod des Körpers überleben konnte."

Wie hat es mir gefallen?
Thomas Pierce hat mit „Die Leben danach“ ein Meisterwerk geschaffen, das auf so vielen Ebenen einfach nur genial ist. Selbst die Zinkers Forschung ist wahnsinnig gut beschrieben, man wird nicht mit harten physikalischen Fakten bombardiert, sondern erfährt alles über die Daisy-Teilchen wohldosiert und niemals trocken. Sehr gut gefallen hat mir zudem auch die Zukunft, die der Autor uns schildert: Jim lebt nicht weit, jedoch einige Jahre in unserer Zukunft. Hologramme werden immer alltäglicher und bilden einen netten roten Faden, der die Frage „Was ist real?“ immer wieder aufnimmt und alles Fleischliche, die Hologramme sowie die Erscheinungen aus der Welt der Toten verknüpft. Weiterhin finden sich am Ende jedes Kapitels Szenen der früheren Bewohner des „spukenden“ Hauses, und nach und nach kommt man dem Geheimnis auf die Spur und beginnt, zu begreifen. Wenn die Puzzleteile ineinandergreifen und alles plötzlich Sinn ergibt, bildet Pierce‘ Roman ein großartiges Gesamtbild. Denn der Autor schafft es zum Ende hin tatsächlich, alle losen Fäden, die er im Laufe seines Romans aufgreift, zu verknüpfen. Auch wenn der Kopf nach der Lektüre vor lauter Fragen zum Thema „Leben“ nach dem Tod zu platzen droht, verbleibt das Gefühl der Begeisterung: für die Story, die Idee – und das Talent des Autors, der mit seinem ersten Roman direkt einen Volltreffer landet. Bitte mehr davon!

Mehr Rezensionen findet ihr auf meinem Blog: https://killmonotony.de
Profile Image for Tracie Gutknecht.
977 reviews8 followers
February 26, 2018
First off, I think the cover is stupid. There is a thing about the dog in the book, but like the book, it doesn't really convey the message of the story.

Jim Byrd dies for a few minutes and remembers absolutely nothing, no white lights, no dead family members visiting, nothing but blank/blackness. He is given a heartnet which keeps his heart beating and is a replacement to a pacemaker, but with a battery life of 200 years. Thus, conceivably his heart could continue to beat even after he is dead. Quirky, right?

Jim is an average guy, except for this heart anomaly. He approves bank loans. He comes across an unusual charge in a loan application that peaks his interest. He visits the restaurant in question, meets the owner, runs into a former girlfriend, hears about a weird experience and it sends him on a research hunt for the former owners.

Ultimately, I feel like this book fails it's grand undertaking. To quote from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure--time is like a burrito. The story hops around between the past and the present and the authors point is that our lives are still taking place and each moment is being relived again and again and that if we can reduce or subvert our consciousness we should be able to relive those experiences with those people just like the first time.

I'm giving the book 3 stars, because it does make you think, the story is different, I'll probably remember it years from now, but I don't know that I enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Matt Graupman.
881 reviews12 followers
September 20, 2022
I love Thomas Pierce’s work. He has a tremendous knack for writing stories and characters that are not only realistic but familiar, and yet there’s always a little twist or quirk or element that leaves the reader feeling slightly unbalanced. His excellent collection of short stories, “Hall Of Small Mammals,” was packed full of these off-beat little gems so I was very intrigued to see how his style would carry over to the longer format of a novel. I’m happy to report that his first full-length book, “The Afterlives,” retains all the warmth, charm, and creativity of his short stories. Sure, it’s a little unfocused in spots, it meanders a bit here and there, but what else do you expect when an author of Pierce’s wit and thoughtfulness tackles two of the great unknowns: Death and Love.

“The Afterlives” is mainly the story of Jim Byrd, an unremarkable loan officer who, due to a heart condition, was technically dead for a few minutes before the paramedics were able to revive him. For Jim, the most troubling aspect of the experience was that he didn’t perceive anything like an afterlife: no white light, no deceased relatives welcoming him to Heaven, nothing. It’s from this little seed that Pierce grows a very fertile story. “The Afterlives” is also about Jim’s burgeoning relationship with his wife Annie (who was widowed years before) and his stepdaughter Fisher, as well as his complex dealings with his father. But “The Afterlives” is also about the search for spirituality, the proliferation of holograms (“Grammers”) in society, the nature of existence and what lies beyond what we can perceive, and the dangers of how technology may be able to let us glimpse what comes after death. Also, for good measure, Pierce throws in flashbacks about a troubled marriage that culminated in a horrific house fire. Okay, take a breath. Don’t be intimidated by all that. Yes, Pierce ponders a lot in the book’s 360+ pages; you can almost feel him relaxing and stretching out, unconstrained by the limits of short fiction. And yes, these plot threads don’t come together neatly in the end but real life isn’t neat, death isn’t neat, and love isn’t neat, so why should “The Afterlives” be? More than anything, “The Afterlives” feels real. Despite all the holograms and futuristic heart devices and whatnot, Jim Byrd - his personality, his family, his struggles - feels so incredibly real. That’s the key to the novel, I think: how Pierce so deftly balances the ineffable (Death and Love) with the mundane (dealing with death and love).

With so much going on in “The Afterlives,” I feel like I’m still unpacking all my thoughts and opinions about the book. Like the ghosts or spirits or whatever in its pages, “The Afterlives” feels just beyond reach, even almost flimsy at times, and yet it’s undeniably there. Even hours after turning the last page, Jim and Annie and all the others still exist in my imagination. I’m not sure any of this makes sense so let me just say that the novel is hypnotic, dreamy, and beautiful. I don’t need to see the future to know that Thomas Pierce will go down as one of the great writers of the 21st century.
Profile Image for Jason.
Author 16 books62 followers
May 22, 2018
It's tough not to think of Don Delillo's masterwork White Noise here. Both books expound on humanity's fear of death and on our mundane technological and consumerist distractions designed to mitigate this fear. And both are very funny despite their weighty subject matter. What's different is, of course, the 30 years that have elapsed between the two works. While Delillo's book was informed by 1980s Cold War dread and the fear of nuclear annihilation, Pierce's is framed by the emergence of artificial intelligence and augmented reality. In both cases, the books' philosophical concerns and social critiques are spot-on.

Here, a man who's suffered a near-fatal heart attack and been fitted with a "smart" pacemaker with its own phone app becomes obsessed with a haunted house turned restaurant and the work of an obscure physicist working on the link between daisy particles and the afterlife. It's an absurd premise nicely mitigated through some earnest and effective meditations on death and loss. The central narrative is occasionally interrupted by the story of the original occupants of the house in question, who died in a fire. Thankfully, this dual-narrative device doesn't result in that annoying, contrived alternating chapter structure ubiquitous in pretty much every other book published these days. All in all, it's a great book, equally entertaining and emotionally resonant. My current favorite 2018 novel.
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